Srinagar: Nearly 300 WhatsApp groups were being used to mobilise stone throwers in Kashmir to disrupt anti-terror operations by security forces at encounter sites, a police official said on Sunday. More than 90 per cent of these groups have been shut down in the past three weeks.
The official said each of these 300 WhatsApp groups had around 250 members.
"We identified the groups and the group administrators, who were called in by police for counselling. We have had a good response to this initiative," said the officer, who did not wish to be identified.
He said the government's policy of suspending internet services appeared to be showing positive results in curbing stone throwing during encounters and cited the case of Friday's encounter in Budgam district. Just a few young people gathered to hurl stones at security forces after two terrorists were gunned down in the encounter.
This was in sharp contrast to an encounter in Durbugh village in the same area on March 28, when a large number of stone throwers had assembled and three of them were killed in firing by security forces.
"With no internet services, the mobilisation of mobs has almost become impossible. Earlier, we would see youth from as far as 10 kilometres from the encounter sites joining the protesters to pelt stones at security forces to disrupt the anti-militancy operations. That did not happen during or after the encounter in the absence of internet on mobiles," the official said.
He said some of the young people listed reasons like alleged harassment by security forces for taking to stone-pelting.
"Most of them get carried away momentarily," he said, adding authorities are also looking at further sensitising the personnel on the need to adopt a humane approach while dealing with people.
"With the internet facility withdrawn, the activity on these social networking groups and other sites like Facebook has come down drastically," he added.
More than half a dozen young people have been killed in stone throwing incidents in the first three months of this year.